Tag Archives: art
New Orleans is in the midst of completing a plan to remove four Confederate monuments from public spaces in the city. In April, city workers removed a monument to a Reconstruction-era insurrection, and last week, they dismantled a statue of Jefferson Davis. Statues of the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P. G. T. Beauregard will be coming down soon.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu exploited the murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina to push for historical censoring, a long-time goal of civil rights groups and progressives. Now the city says it is weighing a new location for the monuments so they could be “placed in their proper historical context from a dark period of American history.” The favored new location is rumored to be Hell.
There are protests, of course, and most objections are coming from the perfect advocates from perspective of the historical amnesia fans: Confederacy fans, “Lost Cause” adherents, white supremacists, and other deplorables. Seldom has George Orwell’s quote been more relevant:
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
I’ve written so much about the efforts from the left to purge America of any memory of or honor to historical figures who do not meet its 2o17 lock-step mandate for politically correct views and statements that I hesitate to repeat myself. You can review the record here.
Still, some things bear repeating. The last time I wrote about this issue was in February, when Yale capitulated to student thought-control advocates and eliminated the name of John C. Calhoun from a residential hall. For it isn’t just leaders of the Confederacy who are targets of this cultural self-cannibalism: it is all past leaders who were proven wrong in some respects by subsequent wisdom, experience and events, including American icons like Jefferson and Jackson. That last post listed the rationalizations employed by the statue-topplers and the spineless officials who capitulate to their purges , including
The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times”
The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”
The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”
Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”
The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
The Futility Illusion: “If we don’t do it, somebody else will.”
The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
The Coercion Myth: “We have no choice!”
The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”
The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s not the first time”
The Abuser’s License: “It’s Complicated”
The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
When you can throw up twelve rationalizations, that’s more than enough to convince the average, ethically-deficient citizen, not to mention social justice warriors.
A friend, lawyer, and Democrat had chided me on Facebook for suggesting that the frenzy to make America a safe place for anyone troubled by the opinions and actions of American patriots of the past could reach as far as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and accused me of engaging in wild hyperbole. Soon thereafter, the Connecticut Democratic Party purged the names and images of Presidents Jackson and Jefferson from its annual dinner, in order to kowtow to progressive activists. In November of last year, hundreds of University of Virginia students and faculty members demanded that President Teresa Sullivan stop quoting Thomas Jefferson, because doing so “undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.”…I believe it is fair to say that I was right to be alarmed, and my friend was wrong. (I’m still going to let the statue of him in my backyard stay there, though.)
The cultural ethics alarms are sounding, as the toxic combination of the ignorant, the cultural bullies and the cowardly brings the United States closer to an Orwellian society where the past is remade to suit the perceived needs of the present. Yale’s treatment of Calhoun redoubles my conviction that I expressed last year more than once. We have to honor what deserved and deserves to be honored. If we do not, history becomes political propaganda, useful only to support current political agendas. A nation that does not honor and respect its history has no history.
And a nation that has no history is lost.
The New York Times published separate interviews with a leading critic and a prominent supporter of the historical airbrushing in New Orleans. Continue reading
While we’re on the topic of “hate speech”…how about “hate paintings”? At public universities? Painted by faculty members?
An art gallery at the University of Alaska-Anchorage this month displayed the painting above, depicting actor Chris Evans as Captain America and holding the severed head of President Trump while Hillary Clinton grasps Cap’s legs like she is a slave girl and he is Conan the Barabarian. The artist is UAA Painting Professor Thomas Chung, who created the masterpiece as part of a faculty art program. Naturally it was accepted, just as it would have been if he had painted Thor holding up President Obama’s severed head. Of course it would have been accepted. After all, art is art. Academic freedom. Right?
Chung explains the artwork as something he chose to paint because he was upset at the results of the 2016 election. “I spent days just weeping,” he has said. Campus Reform quotes him explaining his decision:
“I was really torn about putting this piece up at a faculty show, because I would never talk about my own political beliefs to my students. But I realized that I feel very strongly about this, and I think even students that might be pro-Trump supporters could benefit from having a conversation with me about why I feel this way—why I painted this.”
(By the way, the actual painting shows Evans/Captain America’s sex organs. None of the versions on the web do, though. Sorry!)
Random ethics observations, since I fear that painting may have caused some brain damage and I can’t seem to organize a coherent paragraph: Continue reading
Award Ethics: Hollywood’s Casey Affleck-Nate Parker Controversy Is Ethically Simple, But Then, Hollywood Doesn’t Have Ethics
There were several possible Ethics Alarms posts that could have come out of The Golden Globe Awards last night, the obvious one involving the continuing arts community tantrum in the wake of the election of Donald Trump over Hollywood’s sweetheart, Hillary Clinton. Meryl Streep put herself in the running for “Gratuitous Cheap Shot Of The Year ” with her acceptance speech for something or other, but I decided that in a community where Rosie O’Donnell tweets “Fuck you!” to the Speaker of the House for simply completing his duty to certify the Electoral College vote, and over the weekend tweeted, “HE MUST NEVER BE SWORN IN – DELAY INAGURATION – INVESTIGATE – ARREST HIM” as her considered analysis of the proper workings of our democracy, Streep’s shot seemed like the height of restraint.
The more interesting issue on display at the Golden Globes involves actor Casey Affleck, Batman’s brother, who won the night’s Best Actor in a Film Drama award for his performance in “Manchester by the Sea.” Last year, it was revealed that the actor had two sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him in 2010 that alleged he had groped women on the set and created a generally hostile work environment while directing the film, “I’m Still Here.” Since during the campaign Hollywood was all-in using misogyny and sexual harassment as one of the many accusations against Donald Trump, some claim that honoring Affleck undermines the community’s assumed condemnation of the Trump-like conduct he was accused of.
Complicating the matter is the conundrum surrounding Nate Parker, the previously unknown black artist who was the main creative force behind the 2016 slave-revolt film “The Birth of a Nation.” As Oscar buzz was ramping up for his film—remember that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences is more or less obligated to find plenty of nominations and awards for African Americans, regardless of objective artistic merit— new details surfaced concerning a decades old criminal case in which Parker was accused of raping a female student while both were at Penn State. He was acquitted, but the facts were ugly, and the alleged victim committed suicide. Once that was known, all of the promise shown by “The Birth of a Nation” evaporated. Although the film was a smash at festivals, it received mixed reviews,bombed at the box office, and has been poison at the various awards so far, receiving no nominations.
The Strange, Unique, Sort-Of Unethical Movie Career Of Marnie Nixon, a.k.a. Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, And Audrey Hepburn
Marni Nixon died last month at 86, and I have been intending to write about her ever since. An accomplished soprano with perfect pitch and a rare gift for mimicry, Nixon secretly dubbed in the songs for Deborah Kerr as Anna in “The King and I,” Natalie Wood as Maria in “West Side Story” and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” three of the most successful and honored Hollywood adaptations of Broadway musicals. In doing so she was assisting in the perpetration of a fraud on critics and audiences, but one that had, and indeed has, some legitimate ethical arguments, and rationalizations too, to justify it. Why is using a stunt singer any more dishonest than using a stunt man? Isn’t film about making the audience accept illusions in pursuit of art? If an audience member will be more likely to enjoy a film thinking that a major star can really sing, why is it wrong to make it possible for them to believe that, at least for a while?
The reasoning would have more power if long before Marnie did her secret singing Hollywood hadn’t already made a classic musical, “Singin’ in the Rain,” that pronounced the practice fraudulent. Marni Nixon was a real life Cathy Seldon, the Debbie Reynolds contract player forced to supply the singing and speaking voice for a talentless silent film superstar, Lina Lamont, whose real voice would make dogs run for refuge and men claw off their ears, and whose continued status as a money-making asset for the studio depended on making her successful in talkies.
Ironically, even “Singin’ in the Rain” engaged in the same fraud it was ridiculing. Debbie Reynolds was a competent singer, but a richer, more mature voice was needed to match the image of Jean Hagen, the terrific comic actress playing Lina. So when Debbie was shown secretly replacing Lina’s nightmarish singing voice with her own, another singer was secretly used, uncredited, to dub Debbie. Her voice fit Lina perfectly, because the voice put in Debbie’s mouth while she was supposedly putting her voice into Lina’s was the real voice of… Jean Hagen. Continue reading